My gorgeous wife, Jordan, surprised me with a truly amazing and well thought-out birthday present – We were heading to an off the grid Knysna tipi accommodation. As we mentioned in our previous blog post: we regularly choose experiences over material things. Jordan knows how much I love the forest, having grown up close to one in Germany. The childhood memories in the forest (riding bicycles, playing hide and seek, looking for treasures) are some of my most dear. So when Jordan said that she found a tipi (completely off the grid) in the Knysna forest for us, I was already packing my bag before I knew any other details.
And what an unforgettable experience it was.
Knysna is relatively far from Port Elizabeth (261 km) so we decided last minute to make our trip more worthwhile and stay for two nights instead of one. On Thursday night we messaged our host to ask if we could come a day earlier. On Friday morning he responded with a ‘perfect, see you later’. Once I was home from work, we packed the car and headed off!
As our parents have always told us, “the trip is part of the journey”. We know the road to Knysna well, passing Jeffreys Bay (see our blog posts here), Tsitsikamma (see our forest hike blog post here) and Plettenberg Bay (see our Plett hike blog post here).
Being winter, the days become darker earlier so the majority of our drive was in darkness. The moon had not risen making the night particularly dark, with strong winds and isolated showers. We were both relieved to reach Knysna some hours later. We drove through the town and before crossing the lagoon at the last set of robots (traffic lights) we turned right onto the Old Cape Road. We followed the road until it changed from surfaced to unsurfaced (drive carefully as there are some speed bumps on the tarred section of the road). Almost immediately after we drove onto the gravel we turned left, following the Gouna Road. Before taking the turn, we called the host (Crosby) informing them of our location. He gave us a set of directions that differed from the initial one, due to the road having become extremely slippery with the rain.
We took the turn and instantly our surroundings became even darker – no more city lights nor street lights, no moonlight, and overhanging trees. I won’t lie – it was spooky. Jordan isn’t one for scary movies so being in this situation, she was sitting tensed next to me rattling off all the possible creatures that could jump out at us (clearly she’s watching too much Supernatural). The photo below was taken on Sunday when we were heading home and could see the road better.
The untarred road went up and down, twisting here and there, whilst the road was getting smaller and the mist built up. We crossed a river, drove through the wooden palisade fence, bypassed houses on both sides and a helicopter before entering the path onto the field. We had driven past the destined farm, and as a result, had to turn around. As we took the turn onto the farm we got ourselves into a bit of a situation: We got stuck!
There was a newly built drainage ditch that we hadn’t seen in the pitch black night. Unfortunately, we were not in a position to get ourselves unstuck. We dug some topsoil away and one of us reversed while the other was pushing. No luck. We gave Crosby (the host) a call, and he and a friend came to the rescue.
It was biting cold! Shivering, we took the moment to look up at the majesty of the sky. Breath-taking. Crosby and his friend arrived extremely worried and pulled us out with their bakkie. We followed them onto the veld road and arrived at our tipi 3 minutes later. After apologising profusely, Crosby showed us the tipi and invited us to warm up with a glass of wine next to the fire in their geodome.
Off the grid Knysna tipi accommodation
We were stunned at how big the tipi was. There was a double bed with a mosquito net, a straw basket cupboard that contained extra blankets (we were thrilled about this with it being so cold!), a two-seater couch, a bookshelf with books and games, a cupboard with a kettle, teapot and coffee plunger. There was also a water dispenser and bowl for us to have a wash basin. There were solar powered lights in the tipi, but we had brought our own camping light as well. We were also provided with a small gas bottle to boil water for tea or the hot water bottle that Crosby had given us to use. There were also two towels provided.
Note: See the stay as you would a camping stay – but slightly more glam. We brought along our own food, crockery and cutlery. Bring pots and pans for cooking etc. There is obviously no fridge so we had ice in our cooler box. We needed the camping light and car cell phone chargers. We use our cell phones to take most of our photos, so our batteries die quickly.
There was an outside bath that had great views of the forest. The water was heated by lighting a fire under the bath – creating a ‘hot tub’. The shower was also outside, with a solar geyser for hot water. The bath and shower were across the small pond in front of the deck and tipi. The compost toilet was outside, to the right of the tipi (when leaving it). The toilet is in a little wooden box. Toilet paper, soap and water (through the dispenser) was provided. There were solar fairy lights around the box to show it’s location in the dark.
The deck and fire pit
The deck and fire pit were in front of the tipi. The beautiful wooden deck overlooked the forest and had a picnic table on it. The fire pit was stocked with wood, and additional wood was nearby. There were two chairs and tree stumps around it.
First nights sleep
After a drink with our hosts, we headed back to our tipi. The moon had risen and the light was so bright. Once again we found ourselves standing and staring at the night sky despite the icy chill.
We dressed in our warmest pyjamas and extra jerseys and added extra blankets over the bed. We had put the hot water bottle into the bed when we arrived to warm it up. Snuggling in bed we gave thanks for our day and fell asleep pretty quickly after the long week and slightly stressful drive.
Waking up the next morning we felt refreshed and headed out into the gorgeous sunlight. We enjoyed our breakfast on the deck enjoying the forest view. We charged the solar lighting for the tipi on the deck table. We then prepared for our hike through the famed Knysna forest.
The hosts gave us directions from the farm to a waterfall in the forest. We nodded and repeated the directions, with a “great, got it. See you later” response and headed off. Following directions should be easy as we are both geographers. Unfortunately, we get lost fairly often when spoken directions are given to us. Naturally, we got ‘lost’. We were chatting away and missed our first turn.
Over the next five and a half hours we hiked 19.5 km to and from a nature reserve. We walked the Terblans Nature Hike (6.5 km moderately difficult hike), in the Gouna section of the Knysna Forest. While the forests are a reminder of my childhood; for Jordan, walking through the forest was living out her reading of Circles in the Forest (although we saw no Big Feet [elephants]).
Our last evening
After a refreshing shower, we rested on the deck playing cards. I rested in the hammocks strung up in the trees and Jordan read. We started a fire around sunset. Wood, firelighters and matches were provided. We enjoyed a glass or two of sherry and took in the peacefulness. The silence of the night and the fire crackling and sizzling as the wood burned was mesmerising.
Our last night in the tipi was absolutely amazing. It started raining at around 11 pm and did not stop until we left the next morning. The sound of the rain hitting the tipi placed us into an even deeper sleep. It was also a warmer night, not as freezing cold as the first one. The next morning after breakfast we packed up. We loaded the car during a reprieve in the rain. We said our goodbyes to the hosts (who were really lovely).
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